Truth and Convenience 299
^Truth should never be allowed to become extreme ; other-
wise it will be apt to meet and to run into the extreme of
falsehood. It should be played pretty low down—to the pit
and gallery rather than the stalls. Pit-truth is more true to
the stalls than stall-truth to the pit.
An absolute lie may live—for it is a true lie, and is saved by
being flecked with a grain of its opposite. Not so absolute
Whenever we push truth hard she runs to earth in contra-
diction in terms, that is to say, in falsehood. An essential
contradiction in terms meets us at the end of every enquiry.
In Alps and Sanctuaries (Chapter V) I implied that I was
lying when I told the novice that Handel was a Catholic. But
I was not lying ; Handel was a Catholic, and so am I, and so is
every well-disposed person. It shows how careful wre ought
to be when we lie—we can never be sure but what we may
be speaking the truth.
Perhaps a little bit of absolute truth on any one question
might prove a general solvent, and dissipate the universe.
Truth generally is kindness, but where the two diverge or
collide, kindness should override truth.
Truth consists not in never lying but in knowing when to
lie and when not to do so. De minimis non cur at veritas.
Yes, but what is a minimum ? Sometimes a maximum is a
minimum and sometimes it is the other way.
.Lying is like borrowing or appropriating in music. It is